Allow me to paint this picture:
There was a woman who made a living by selling her body to men (prostituting). This woman was considered unclean, she had been with a lot of men (and maybe even women). She was paid to have sex and it was the only thing she knew how to do. She’s part of the sex trade industry and had been for quite sometime now. She was even known in her home town as the “town prostitute”; the “one-night-stander”. She was considered dirty and immoral. A lot of wives despised her for they knew that their husbands were sleeping with her. A lot of sons and daughters hated her for taking their daddy away from their family. The priests condemned her for she destroyed families. She was the Town Harlot. No one dared go near her for they fear that she might “infect” them with her sin. No one wanted to minister to her for they choose not to be associated with such a sinful woman. No one even acknowledge her when she would walk in a store or when she would ask help. Maybe her family even disowned her. No one, not even the teachers of the Scriptures wanted to know her. Let’s call this “sinful” woman Jane. People talked behind Jane’s back, they gossiped and spread rumors. And because of that she was labeled as the Town Harlot. She hid herself with a veil, perhaps, because of shame.
She covered her body with veils because of fear. She distanced herself from society. She was constantly told that she was worthless, and sinful that her only protection from being hurt by these words were to distance herself from society. She didn’t want to show her face for she was ashamed of what she had become.
Jane knew that her life was not a good one. She knew how many men had been on top of her, she knew that she had no family, and she knew that if she were to die today no one would really care. She knew the life she led.
Jane was working one day when she found out that the Jesus was coming to her home town because He had been invited by one of the most “respected” Priests. Let us call this “respected” priest Simon.
Now, Simon, here, invited the Jesus to eat with him and his selected guests. During those times it was customary to wash the guest’s feet before they entered the house to eat. Simon, being a Priest (which was considered as an honor), did not. He did not even greet Jesus when He entered. He treated Jesus as if He was just a common man and not the guest of honor. Jesus, being ever kind, let this slip.
As Jesus sat down to eat, Jane, the town harlot, approached Him, bringing an Alabaster Jar of very expensive perfume. It was a year’s worth of wages. And it could be that Jane had no other possession other than that alabaster jar of perfume. She breaks it at Jesus’ feet and she starts crying. She just pours out her heart as she pours the perfume. Repentant, she starts kissing the feet of Jesus and not only that but she starts wiping the tears that fell from her face to Jesus’ feet with her hair. She does it over and over.
Simon saw what Jane, the harlot, was doing. And he thought to himself, “Aha! If Jesus only knew that this woman who is touching Him is a very sinful woman, I doubt that He would even let her touch Him. I thought this Jesus was a Prophet, why is He allowing this dirty woman to touch Him?”
Jesus, in His spirit, immediately knew what Simon was thinking and so He finally confronted Simon.
“Simon, this woman, no matter how unclean you deem her, is my beloved. She even poured out a very expensive perfume on my feet. And from the time I came in she never stopped kissing my feet. She even washed my feet with her tears and, in her humility and repentance, wiped them with her own hair. I love this woman, no matter how immoral you call her. You didn’t wash my feet or dry them. You didn’t even greet me with a kiss, but this woman did all that! And because of her repentant heart, I forgive her! She is now CLEAN!”
“I forgive you,” Jesus said to Jane. And Jane walked out of that house as a new woman, a forgiven woman, no longer a harlot but a lover of Christ.
I always find myself amazed by this story, by this woman’s Jesus-encounter. Before Jesus, this town harlot must have thought that everything she had done was unforgivable. But she walked out a totally different person, a forgiven lover! Aren’t we, in some ways, all like this town harlot?
The only way we could be changed by God is if we allow Him to do so.
A Retelling of Luke 7:36-50